I saw this guy on the train And he seemed to gave gotten stuck In one of those abstract trances. And he was going: "Ugh...Ugh...Ugh..." And Fred said: "I think he's in some kind of pain. I think it's a pain cry." And I said: "Pain cry? Then language is a virus."
Laurie Anderson - Language is a Virus
I have been searching high and low for Pontypool for months. Netflix (as of this posting) is not carrying it. My one surviving Mom and Pop video store did not have it. And, of course, that crappy Redbox, that sits like the monolith from 2001 A Space Odyssey, in my local supermarket does not offer it.
Happily, the Showtime Network was kind enough to be running Pontypool this month. So, through the magic of DVR, I was able to record the show while it was playing this very morning and then view it over dinner tonight.
Hooray for technology, sez I.
Based on the novel, Pontypool Changes Everything, Pontypool is a claustrophobic meditation on the power of language and it's ability to create confusion and hatred, and to spread that confusion and hatred like a virus. And in a world of Rush Limbaughs and Matt Savages the point of this film is well taken.
Cleverly sold as a zombie flick, Pontypool, tells the tale of a ruined radio shock jock doing time in a Canadian back water's local station. The DJ (Grant Mazzy played by Stephen McHattie) is a depressed, self destructive character who seems to be on a personal downward spiral. But he has one redeeming quality; his love of language. This is witnessed in the film's opening moments when he quotes Norman Mailer's theory of words and coincidences and how they combine after a tragedy to make some sort of strange sense.
When disturbing reports come into the station about riots and murders occurring in and around town, Mazzy and his crew of two (Sydney Briar played by Lisa Houle and Laurel-Ann played by Georgina Reilly) must try to determine if they are the subject of some sort of elaborate hoax, or if they are truly in the midst of some sort of critical Canadian mass hysteria. Confusing matters further is the fact that no reports of any disturbances are coming over any of the news wires fed into the station. It's not until a field reporter calls in with an eye witness that the trio realize they are in some serious trouble.
As the story progresses, and it becomes obvious that the locals have gone all George-Romero, Pontypool revs up the blood and gore a bit, before it turns around and throws an ice cold bucket of WHAT-THE-FUCK at the viewer. How did this happen? What is causing this? The answer is both brilliant and confounding (as well as terribly devious). Don't worry, I will not spoil this for you.
In the end, Pontypool, in my humble opinion, is one of the most thought provoking films to come along in some time. While it may be all dressed up like a horror movie, there is something much deeper going on here; from the allusions to the war on terror (watch for the singing group earlier in the film all dressed up like Osama bin Laden and friends) to the seemingly not so subtle attack on the way the mass media often manufactures stories... Pontypool is the Tower of Babel and it's just come crumbling down on our heads.